Diocesan high schools to develop diversity, inclusivity plans

A national consultant on diversity has been hired by Father Ryan and Pope John Paul II high schools to help them improve inclusivity on their campuses.

The initiative comes in the wake of protests against racism across the country sparked by the recent violent deaths of African-Americans, many at the hands of law enforcement. The incidents not only led to protests but also discussions of the ways race and racism have affected institutions across daily life.

“As many people seek change, equality, and equity for our Black and other brothers and sisters of color, I am struck by the pain exhibited through protests and shared in subsequent interactions,” Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Nashville, wrote in a letter announcing the initiative. 

“Both of our diocesan Catholic high schools have been challenged by alumni groups to evaluate how school policies, structures, and interactions shape the high school experiences of our Black and other students of color,” she added. “Prompted by this new awareness from the very men and women our high schools educated, both schools will develop plans to improve inclusivity on their respective campuses in cooperation with their local Boards of Trustees and my office. These plans will be informed by input from stakeholders and will ultimately yield strategies to help eradicate racism from the educational experience of all students.” 

The efforts to develop the plans at both schools will be led by Derek Young, a consultant and business coach who has worked with corporate and non-profit clients across the country to develop programs to promote diversity and inclusivity. 

“Our comprehensive and open processes will be driven by prudence and awareness, and will align with Catholic social teachings, especially our commitment to the human dignity of all,” Hammel wrote.

In a separate letter to the Father Ryan community, President Jim McIntyre and Principal Paul Davis wrote: “Our community recognizes that we need to look at our school and ourselves to make sure we demonstrate an inclusive environment for Black students and other students of color. The Father Ryan community, in collaboration with the Diocese of Nashville and its leadership, is committed to doing the work necessary to make this initiative a reality.”

“Our goal is to create effective and lasting solutions,” they added, “ones that emerge from an informed and thoughtful process, ones that will help prevent racism on our campus.”

“There is no room for rash decisions in this process,” Hammel wrote. “I urge you to allow this process to unfold and to avoid rumors and speculations that are currently fueling the issues and resulting in untruths, unproductive exchanges, and additional harm to some members of our community.

“Our Catholic schools have rich histories of service and excellence and have contributed to the formation of many community leaders, doctors, educators, musicians, lawyers, athletes, religious sisters, deacons, priests, performers and artists,” she added. “However, all our diocesan schools will embrace this opportunity to grow ourselves, to strengthen our programs and protocols, and most importantly to build communities where every student encounters gospel values and the love of Christ in both a personal relationship with Jesus and through the actions of others.”

“Please know that as Bishop Spalding’s delegate for Catholic education in the Diocese of Nashville, I assure you that the well-being of all of our students is our highest priority,” Hammel wrote. “Creating an environment in which each one realizes his or her value as a young man or woman born in the image and likeness of God is the very purpose for each one of our school communities.”